Q I’m a college and still living at home. I say it’s home but it’s never felt like home. There’s always shouting and arguing going on between my mum and step-dad and my older brother gets involved too. It’s so horrible and I try and keep my distance as much as I can by staying in the college library to study. I feel ignored and over-looked because I’m the quiet one in the family. I shouldn’t have to shout to be seen or heard. It’s left me feeling more nervous and timid, and scared of ever having a relationship in case it ends up like my mum and step-dad’s (my own dad died when I was very small and my step-dad quickly came on the scene). I hate it there and long for the day I can move out and get my own place. Why do they all have to keep shouting at each other all the time?
A You are right. There is no need to shout. I guess they think that it’s an effective way to make the other person hear what they say. It doesn’t mean that the other person is listening though and is most likely pre-occupied with their own next verbal blasting!
It would take an ‘adult’ agreement between them to all stop raising their voices. I very much doubt that you will be able to change their ingrained conflict pattern alone. There will need to be an awareness of how detrimental and futile all that shouting was for them.
To an impressionable child shouting feels like a slap. It’s a form of emotional abuse. It squashes the child’s will and replaces it with fear.
If you have grown up with it for years it will have left an even deeper impression upon you, and I sense this in your fear that your own relationships might turn out the same way.
There is no reason why they should… and I suspect that you for one would certainly not be one to shout at your partner!
What concerns me though is that you might attract a man who is similar to the man who raised you – because that is what you have internalised and associated with men.
I very much hope that you make friends with calmer more respectful young men at college. Ones who have the emotional intelligence and self-awareness and restraint not to have to brow-beat others to get their point across.
In time you will feel more at ease with these ‘different’ males and promise yourself not to settle for anything less when it comes to your own future relationships.
As for the present time…you could try writing something brief, or printing out a social media meme image and quote about shouting and listening – and putting it up on the fridge! If only to awaken awareness and potential discussion.
If your family don’t see anything wrong in the way they communicate with one another then you can only assert your preference for things to be different.
Maybe you could have a quiet one-to-one with your mother and ask her about your birth father. Was he a shouty man too? Was your mum’s own father like that?
Approach the subject from a place of curiosity rather than blame. It may be that she sees the pattern she has created – and you will see how you can avoid repeating that pattern yourself.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES that relate to the effects our childhood has upon us.